Likable, extremely pretty leading lady of mostly B-films, almost exclusively with Universal during a film career which included over two dozen films between 1934 and 1941. Grey is probably best rememb...
After Dark Films
It seems a bit odd to take on a movie review of Courtney Solomon's Getaway, as only in the loosest terms is Getaway actually a movie. We begin without questions — other than a vague and frustrating "What the hell is going on?" — and end without answers, watching Ethan Hawke drive his car into things (and people) for the hour and a half in between. We learn very little along the way, probed to engage in the mystery of the journey. But we don't, because there's no reason to.
There's not a single reason to wonder about any of the things that happen to Hawke's former racecar driver/reformed criminal — forced to carry out a series of felonious commands by a mysterious stranger who is holding his wife hostage — because there doesn't seem to be a single ounce of thought poured into him beyond what he see. We learn, via exposition delivered by him to gun-toting computer whiz Selena Gomez, that he "did some bad things" before meeting the love of his life and deciding to put that all behind him. Then, we stop learning. We stop thinking. We start crashing into police cars and Christmas trees and power plants.
Why is Selena Gomez along for the ride? Well, the beginnings of her involvement are defensible: Hawke is carrying out his slew of vehicular crimes in a stolen car. It's her car. And she's on a rampage to get it back. But unaware of what she's getting herself into, Gomez confronts an idling Hawke with a gun, is yanked into the automobile, and forced to sit shotgun while the rest of the driver's "assignments" are carried out. But her willingness to stick by Hawke after hearing his story is ludicrous. Their immediate bickering falls closer to catty sexual tension than it does to genuine derision and fear (you know, the sort of feelings you'd have for someone who held you up or forced you into accessorizing a buffet of life-threatening crimes).
After Dark Films
The "gradual" reversal of their relationship is treated like something we should root for. But with so little meat packed into either character, the interwoven scenes of Hawke and Gomez warming up to each other and becoming a team in the quest to save the former's wife serve more than anything else as a breather from all the grotesque, impatient, deliberately unappealing scenes of city wreckage.
And as far as consolidating the mystery, the film isn't interested in that either, as evidenced by its final moments. Instead of pressing focus on the answers to whatever questions we may have, the movie's ultimate reveal is so weak, unsubstantial, and entirely disconnected to the story entirely, that it seems almost offensive to whatever semblance of a film might exist here to go out on this note. Offensive to the idea of film and story in general, as a matter of fact. But Getaway isn't concerned with these notions. Not with story, character, logic, or humanity. It just wants to show us a bunch of car crashes and explosions. So you'd think it might have at least made those look a little better.
More Reviews:'The Hunt' Is Frustrating and Fantastic'You're Next' Amuses and Occasionally Scares'Short Term 12' Is Real and Miraculous
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)
Alexander Pope once noted, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” Often the biggest obstacle impeding our enjoyment of a film is our own expectations. That’s not to say a movie can’t be judged effectively on its own merits, but preconceived notions can color our estimations of the movie before we even walk into the theater. These notions can be the result of trailers, of persuasive word-of-mouth, or, in the case of a franchise, on the films that preceded. That is certainly one of the hills Taken 2 must climb this weekend.
However, that will not be Taken 2’s only challenge. Were it any other sequel, it would only have to tangle with these familiar sets of expectations. However, this is a franchise that stars Liam Neeson; the public's construct of what defines a Neeson movie is constantly changing. What’s interesting about the ill-defined Neeson mold is that it’s actually begun to create a problem for the actor over the last four years.
When Taken was readying to hit theaters in early 2008, audiences weren’t sure what to expect. The critics weren’t overly enthusiastic going into the movie: it hadn’t screened wide for press, and it was sort of being dumped in January. Also, nobody seemed convinced that Liam Neeson could carry an action movie. It’s actually quite bizarre. It’s as if we had collectively developed amnesia that obscured his roles in Rob Roy, Krull, and even Star Wars Episode I from our memories.
Taken turned out to not only be a fantastic action film, but in fact one of the better action movies of the last few years — one that seemed to be forging the blueprint for studio action films to follow. It was streamlined; a no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to ass-kicking. It completely reenergized Neeson’s career and placed him in the forefront of the genre’s leading men, where he belonged in the first place. This was followed by a number of projects that played to similar action sensibilities, if not always matching in quality: Clash of the Titans, The A-Team, etc.
So when the ads began to surface for Joe Carnahan’s The Grey, it didn’t seem all that presumptuous to believe we were in for something of similar ilk. Neeson and Carnahan had just worked on The A-Team, an over-the-top action adventure romp, and the marketing for The Grey seemed well aware of that expectation. It became the “it” joke to refer to The Grey as “Taken By Wolves.” What we got instead was a contemplative, visceral descent into purgatory on Earth that had more in common with Milton than it did with Taken.
If you missed The Grey in theaters, it is now available on Netflix’s Watch Instantly service. It’s not a stretch to predict that it will surprise you. The Grey retained enough action set pieces to hold fast to that genre classification, but it could have been labeled a dramatic thriller with equal accuracy. Taxonomical uncertainty aside, one thing that could not be questioned was that we got more than we bargained for with The Grey, and it’s lost not one iota of its impact in the transition from silver to small screen.
An expectation-defying film like The Grey can only be regarded as a positive for an actor, right? In many ways, that is true. But there is another angle to consider here. If indeed you watch The Grey on Netflix right before heading off to the theaters for Taken 2, the resulting disparity in tone and quality may place you in danger of suffering whiplash. Again, it’s not as if each film in an actor’s catalog cannot, or should not, be judged on its own merits. The question however is whether The Grey has once again changed the Liam Neeson standard.
First we didn’t believe he could be an action star, and then came Taken. After that, we came to expect a certain type of action movie from him; The Grey soundly shattering the newly formed archetype. Watching Taken 2, it became clear that the exception of The Grey was coloring the experience as if it were the new rule. Granted, there is a marked decline in the fundamental aspects of filmmaking from the first to the second Taken, but one wonders if we would have been satisfied even if the sequel had been exactly on par with its 2008 predecessor.
As an actor, Liam Neeson, like the first Taken, is not one to remain stagnant. As his projects evolve and change, so do our expectations for his work. These expectations are not often reasonable and can drastically alter how we enjoy his various movies. Be forewarned, Neeson has become as unpredictable as the advancing wolves in The Grey. Nothing you’ve seen of him so far should be taken for granted.
[Photo Credit: Open Road Films]
'Taken 2' to Take Over the Box Office
Liam Neeson Talks 'Taken 2', His Secret Agent Pal, and the Mysterious Christopher Nolan
James Bond Turns 50: Why the Franchise Should Never End
The latest movie in the Step Up franchise aims for a politicized message behind all the flashy moves but it could do with a lot less plot and a lot more dancing. In Step Up Revolution the Miami dance group "The Mob" takes to the streets (and other random locations) to perform intricately choreographed routines with their own DJ a camera guy who uploads their videos to YouTube and a graffiti artist who leaves their signature behind. It takes at least that much effort just to get hipster New Yorkers to ride the subways without any pants on once a year; it's hard to believe that The Mob could pull off their elaborate schemes without getting caught but that's the magic of movies.
The Mob represents the more diverse working class side of Miami a young multiracial group of friends who create incredible works of art that disappear before they get shut down. One of the Mob's leaders Sean (Ryan Guzman) earnestly explains to newcomer Emily (Kathryn McCormick) that the group's reason is to give a voice to the voiceless or to be happy or to dance or something. It's not really clear but they have a lot of fun and look amazing doing it.
Once Sean and his friends find out that a greedy developer plans to raze their neighborhood to make way for another South Beach-style hotel monstrosity they have a reason to rally but until then they're just trying to win a cash prize by getting clicks on YouTube. The typical Step Up twist is that Emily is the developer's daughter. Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher) doesn't approve of Emily's love of dancing or other frippery and he certainly wouldn't approve of her hanging out with the people causing such mayhem in the streets of Miami.
Step Up Revolution biggest misstep is trying to give the movie more of a hook than the franchise's typical Romeo and Juliet-style love story and tap into "the Zeitgeist" (I swear that's from the studio-provided press notes) of flash mobs. The film could have cut out most of the plot and characters and still have a completely intact film insofar as the point of the film is its multimedia dance routines. The sort of productions The Mob pulls off are more akin to carefully planned art installations or music videos in terms of scope; it would have been better to at least make that somehow feasible in terms of the storyline. Yes we are here for a spectacle and we surely get a spectacle but it needs to have some roots in reality.
The dance scenes are fun sexy and occasionally a little sappy but overall quite enjoyable for people who enjoy "So You Think You Can Dance" type of shows. Kathryn McCormick and Stephen "tWitch" Boss both appeared on "SYTYCD" and their costar Misha Gabriel is a classically trained ballet dancer turned pro back-up dancer for folks like Beyoncé and Michael Jackson. Guzman doesn't have a dance background but he is an MMA fighter who obviously took his training very seriously. The entire outfit is pretty damn entertaining to be honest.
As far as the 3D goes it makes most of Miami look overcast and grey. The extra zings added in to make sure we get our money's worth like sand flicking out at us or a breakdancer whose foot seems to be aiming for our face only serves to distract from the real show at hand. There is also an awful lot of ramping and generally spazzy editing tricks that look cheap. The screenplay by Amanda Brody is definitely not its strong suit.
Step Up Revolution is the cinematic equivalent of a trashy beach novel. It's embarrassing to be caught actually enjoying it and you'll forget about it almost immediately but it's a decent way to spend a summer afternoon.
Hoffman (David Arquette) Rosenthal (David Chandler) and Schlermer (Daniel Benzali) know their time is running out. As Sonderkommandos inside a Nazi concentration camp they have been forced to escort their fellow Jews into the gas chambers burn the corpses and dispose of the ashes. In exchange they receive a comfortable living with plenty of food and wine and fresh linens on their beds. But they know that soon their four-month period will be over and they will be executed like the rest. With the intention of rising up against their captors and destroying the ovens they have been hoarding weapons and supplies. They receive help in the form of gunpowder from a group of women prisoners working in a munitions plant. When the women are caught the instigator Dina (Mira Sorvino) valiantly refuses to reveal the whereabouts of the powder under nearly unbearable torture. Meanwhile Hoffman discovers a young girl who has somehow survived the gassing. Before she is burned alive in the ovens he and his fellow prisoners revive her with the help of Dr. Nyiszli (Allan Corduner) a Jewish doctor brought to the camp to perform experiments on the prisoners. Dr. Nyiszli has his own choices to make when the Nazi in charge of the crematorium (Harvey Keitel) offers to save his wife and daughter in exchange for information on the suspected revolt. The conflicts within the prisoners catalyze with the fate of the girl whose existence threatens to interfere with their plans but whose life they cannot deny.
In a surprisingly serious role David Arquette manages to hold his own against arguably better actors such as Steve Buscemi and David Chandler. Though his performance is admirably understated it's hard to buy him as a World War II-era Hungarian Jew. Another actor in the role might be hearing the words "Oscar-caliber performance" whispered around town but it's unlikely that Arquette will achieve anything more than an improved respect among his peers with this film. Mira Sorvino on the other hand has Best Supporting Actress written all over her performance. Looking gaunt and bedraggled she is nearly unrecognizable at first and gives a moving performance as one of the noble women who holds her ground under extreme torture. The talented and underrated Natasha Lyonne makes much of her small amount of screen time. As Oberschaarfher Muhsfeldt Harvey Keitel brings a certain humanity to his seemingly inhuman character in spite of a tenuous German accent. His scenes with Allan Corduner as Dr. Nyiszli provide an interesting counterpoint to the conflicts going on in the rest of the camp.
With so many accounts of the holocaust already adapted to the screen it would seem that there's little new ground to cover. Yet with this film director Tim Blake Nelson proves that Hollywood has only just scratched the surface. Like his first feature Eyes of God The Grey Zone is based on a stage play written by Nelson himself. Acting as editor and screenwriter as well as director he's adapted the story for the screen without pulling any punches. The result is an unflinching portrait of our equal capacity for good and evil that ranks with some of the best holocaust films ever made. It's not an easy film to watch. Scenes of death and torture are laced with troubling philosophical ambiguities that force the audience to examine what they would do in the same situation. In one scene Nelson literally does put the audience in the position of a victim about to be gassed using point-of-view angle shot with a handheld camera. The characters aren't portrayed as one-dimensional villains or victims. They are flawed and human full of complexities brought about by their unique moral dilemma. Of the many memorable scenes one of the best is an ironic juxtaposition as a band of prisoners plays a breezy Strauss waltz while a long queue of new Jewish arrivals files into the camp unknowingly headed towards the gas chambers. The film is full of poignant moments like this and is worth the time for those not bothered by the highly intense subject matter.
Played the female leading role of Kathy Marshall on the popular radio soap opera, "Those We Love"
Film debut, "Babbitt"
Retired from acting upon marrying second husband Frankie Laine
Last film, "Under Age"
Likable, extremely pretty leading lady of mostly B-films, almost exclusively with Universal during a film career which included over two dozen films between 1934 and 1941. Grey is probably best remembered as one of Deanna Durbin's sisters in one of her few A-budget pictures, the delightful comedy "Three Smart Girls" (1936); she later reprised her role in a charming and popular sequel, "Three Smart Girls Grow Up" (1939). Grey also worked for director Joe May on "The Invisible Man Returns" and "The House of the Seven Gables" (both 1940) and contributed a highly touching vignette as the victim of the lesbian vampire countess in "Dracula's Daughter" (1936). She also played the leading role of Kathy Marshall on the popular radio soap opera "Those We Love" from 1938 to 1945. Grey's first husband was jockey Jackie Westrope, and she retired from acting in 1950 upon marrying her second, pop singer Frankie Laine.